A Powerful Epistle

Ephesians 1

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
November 2018

Today, we begin a new study.  We begin a series on the Book of Ephesians.  It is a short book.  It is only six chapters long.  This book is incredible.  It is powerful.  It is one of most important books that Paul ever wrote.  Some of the most famous verses of the NT are in this book.

You will learn some things that you never knew before by studying Ephesians.  This book will teach you.  It will convict you.  It will challenge you.  It may also alarm you.  It may make you uncomfortable.

There are some controversial verses in this book.  There are some hard passages in this book.  There are some things in this book that modern Christians have problems with.  Paul talks about wives submitting to husbands.  What is that all about?  Did Paul just hate women?

There are verses in this book about predestination.  Some Christians have a problem with that.  What was Paul talking about?  We will find out next week as we look at the first chapter of the book.  That chapter will blow your mind.  What is says is phenomenal.  I cannot wait to dig into it.  It is an extremely important chapter and yet most Christians do not know what it

Ephesians is Paul’s great letter about the church.  The word “church” (εκκλησία) occurs nine times in the book (Ephesians 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32).

Ephesians tells us what the church is.  The church is described as a FAMILY not a building but a family.  It is described as a BODY, the body of Christ and it is a very diverse body made up of Jews and Gentiles.  We are all members of that body.  Ephesians says that we are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25).  Spiritual gifts are given to build up that body (Ephesians 4:12). The church is described, not only as a body, but as a bride, the bride of Christ.

Ephesians tells us the purpose and plan of God for the church. So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10

Outlines of the Book

There are many different ways to outline this book. The book is divided into two basic parts.  The first part of the book is DOCTRINAL.  The second part of the book is PRACTICAL.  The first three chapters have no command.  There is no exhortation in those chapters.  It is all theology.  The last three chapters do not tell us what to believe but how to live.  If you do not know what to believe, you will not know how to live.

The second part of the book has about thirty-five commands for believers. It deals with all kinds of topics: love, unity, kindness, gentleness, speaking lies, telling the truth, bitterness, forgiveness, anger, theft, sexual immorality, drunkenness and off-color jokes.  It deals with the prayer. Paul has two prayers in this book (Ephesians 1:15-25; 3:14-21). It deals with the filling of the Holy Spirit.  it deals with worship music, submission, the armor of God and prayer.

There is another way to outline this book.  Ephesians 1-3 deals with the WEALTH of the Christian.  It talks about the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7), the unfathomable riches of his grace (Ephesians 3:8).  It also talks about the inheritance that will be given to us (Ephesians 1:11).

Ephesians 4-5 deal with the WALK of the Christian.   We are told to walk in wisdom, walk in unity, walk in the light and walk in holiness.

Ephesians 6 deals with the WARFARE of the Christian.  It deals with spiritual warfare.  It tells you how to do warfare with Satan and demonic forces.  Before we can fight, we have to learn how to live.  Before we learn how to live, we have to know who we are.  We have to know our spiritual identity, our identity in Christ.

Ephesians 1-3 deal with SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES.  Ephesians 4-5 deal with SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITIES.  Ephesians 6 deals with SPIRITUAL WARFARE.[1]

Today, we want to look at five reasons to study this book.  How is the Book of Ephesians relevant to the church today?

Five Reasons to Study Ephesians

1) This book has some deep theology

It is a deep book.  It is all doctrine.  This book deals with PREDESTINATION.  We are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  It deals with SIN.  The whole race is described as dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2) and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

It deals with SALVATION.  Paul says in Ephesians that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9).  It deals with REDEMPTION and redemption is by blood (Ephesians 1:7).  It deals with the FORGIVENESS OF SINS (Ephesians 1:7).  Ephesians is full of the gospel.

This book deals with GRACE.  The word is used about thirteen times in the book.  Ephesians is full of grace.  Grace for salvation (Ephesians 2:8).  Grace to preach (Ephesians 3:8).  He talks about grace given to each one of us (Ephesians 4:7).  Ephesians mentions God’s glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6), the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7) and the immeasurable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7).

Ephesians has a lot of doctrine in it.  Many Christians do not know doctrine.  They do not know theology and have little interest in theology.  Some pastors do not know theology.  I have been in many churches and have heard many statements over the pulpit that made me cringe.  A good seminary education is supposed to prevent that from happening.

The truth is that what you believe matters.  It affects how you live.  If you do not know theology, you do not know the Word.  God wants us to know some things.  He does not want us to be ignorant.  Paul writes in I Corinthians that he does not want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:1).

Many Christians are ignorant about a lot of things.  They do not know the Bible and many churches today do a poor job of teaching the Bible.  You can be in some churches for forty years and not know the Word.

The Bible says that we are to add to our faith knowledge (II Peter 1:5).  It says that we are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).  We are not only to grow in grace, we are to grow in knowledge.

Having said that, knowing theology is not everything.  You can have a head full of knowledge and be an expert in prophecy and be as mean as the devil.

When you are sick, and someone brings you a meal, they don’t care whether he or she is a Calvinist or Arminian.

When you are poor, and someone gives you some food and money, you don’t care if that person is pre-millennial or post-millennial.

When you are in the hospital, and someone sends you a get-well basket, you don’t care what that individual’s denomination is.

When someone visits your grandparents in the nursing home, you don’t care what style of worship music he listens to.

When someone is kind enough to shovel your parent’s driveway, you don’t care what translation of the Bible the person reads.

When someone gives your friend a lift when their car breaks down, you don’t care if that person is a Baptist or a Pentecostal.

When someone helps your grandmother carry a heavy load of groceries, you don’t care what he or she believes about speaking in tongues.

When someone protects your kids from getting hit by a car when they’re running across the street, you don’t care who your favorite theologian is.[2]

2) This book is very practical

The second part of the earth is very practical.  It is down-to-earth.   It deals with holiness in body and even holiness in speech.  It deals with forgiveness.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

It deals with love.  The word “love” is found 30 times in the book.  The last verse in the book mentions love, not once but twice (Ephesians 6:23).  Ephesians mentions God’s love for us, the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19) and the great love with which he loved us (Ephesians 2:4).

It commands us to love others.  It commands us to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2).  It commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). It commands us to bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2).

It deals with unity.  That is important because the modern church is full of disunity.  Ephesians mentions the “unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  It talks about “the unity of faith” (Ephesians 4:13).  In fact, the only time that the Greek word for unity (ενότητα) is found in the NT is in the Book of Ephesians.

It deals with relationship principles.  This book tells us how to have good relationships.  Ephesians is the key to relationships. (husband/wife, children and parents, masters and slaves).

3) This book tells us who we are as Christians

Personal identity is one of the most important things to understand about ourselves. We do all kinds of DNA tests to find out who we are.  I have done mine.  The Book of Ephesians gives us our identity as Christians.  This chapter tells us what it means to be “in Christ.”  That phrase occurs thirty times in the book.  It tells us that we are all rich.  We are spiritually rich.  It describes out spiritual bank account.  We have every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Knowing your identity can change you.  It changes the way you fell about yourself.  It changes the way you act.

4) This book was written to Gentiles

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now… (Ephesians 2:11-13 ESV)

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1 ESV)

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. (Ephesians 4:17 ESV)

Most people in the church today are Gentiles.  That makes this book very relevant to the church today.  Paul gets a revelation in this book about a mystery that was hidden in ages before (Ephesians 3:5, 9) and the revelation is largely about Gentiles and the new thing that God is doing with Gentiles today that He did not do in the OT.

5) This book contains a manual for spiritual warfare

The clearest teaching on spiritual warfare in the Bible is found in the Book of Ephesians.  This book gives us God’s battle plan for spiritual warfare (putting on the armor of God).  It tells us how to fight Satan and his demons.  We get some principles for spiritual warfare in this book. We are going to begin our study with a brief introduction to the book.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2 ESV)

Background to the Book

1) It was written by Paul

When we write a letter, we put our name at the end of the letter.  Paul put it at the beginning of the letter.  This book was written by Paul.  This book was not just written any man.  It was not just written by a godly man.  It was not just written by a great Christian.  It was written by an apostle, not like the bozos today who claim to be apostles, modern-day apostles on the television.

Ephesians was written by a real apostle.  Paul was not one of the Twelve, but he was a real apostle and had the miraculous signs of a real apostle.  He wrote Scripture, raised the dead, healed the sick and cast out demons.  Paul says that he was an apostle by the will of God (Ephesians 1:1).  In fact, in Galatians, he says that he was not an apostle from man or through man but through Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:1).

This brings us to an important lesson.  Why do people go into the ministry?  They do it because they want to be a pastor. They do it because they think they are gifted as a pastor.  They do it because they attended seminary and have a degree.  They do it because their dad was the pastor.  The only real reason to go into the ministry is because it is God’s will for your life.

Paul was not an apostle because he always wanted to be one but because it was God’s will for him.  He was an apostle by the will of God.  Any ministry we do for Christ should be done because we are called to do it.  Any secular job should be because we are called to do it.  We are all called to do something.  We are not all called to be pastors.  As you evaluate your life, can you honestly say that what you do is something that God has called you do?

2) It was written from prison

He wrote this book from prison.  How do we know that?  Ephesians 3:1 says, “For this reason I, Paul, a PRISONER of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles” (ESV).

Ephesians 4:1 says, “I therefore, a PRISONER for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (ESV)

He also tells his readers to pray for him “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador IN CHAINS, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:19-20 ESV)

Paul was in prison, not for doing something wrong, but for doing something right.  He was in prison for his faith.  If you read the Book of Acts, he is put in prison in Acts 28.  He was put on house arrest in Rome around 60 AD.  While he was in prison, he could not go to these churches, but he could write to them and he wrote four epistles called the four prison epistles (Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians).

This shows Paul’s heart.  While Paul was in prison, he still did ministry.  He was not focused on himself and his own problems.  He did not feel sorry for himself and told this church not to feel sorry for him (Ephesians 3:13).  Even when he was in prison, he was thinking of others and how he could minister to and be an encouragement to other Christians in other places and prays for them.

3) It was written to Christians

It was written to “saints” (KJV, NASB, ESV) who are also described as “faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1).  Both terms describe the same group of people.  Saints are faithful in Christ.  All of the saints in the Roman Catholic Church are dead.  Paul calls people who are alive saints.  He does not use the term to describe special Christians, the super-star Christians.  He uses it to describe every Christian.  He even used it to describe Christians at Corinth.  Many of them did not even live like saints.  Every Christian is a saint.  I am Saint Lewis.  Nine times in the book, Paul uses the term “saints.”

4) The destination was Ephesus

Ephesians 1:1 says it was written “to the saints who are in Ephesus.”  That is what the vast majority of Greek texts say. The ancient city of Ephesus is located in the country of Turkey today.  It was a big city in Paul’s day.  Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor (like our New York City).  It was extremely wealthy.  It was a port city on the Mediterranean.  It was a prominent trade route, one of the greatest seaports in the ancient world.

It was a pagan city.  It had a huge temple there dedicated to the goddess Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  It took two hundred years to build this temple.

Paul did visit Ephesus on his third missionary journey Ephesus was the place where Paul spent the longest time of his ministry (Acts 19-20).  He spent almost three years there on his third missionary journey.  He taught Jews and Gentiles (Acts 19:9-10).  Paul did visit Ephesus on his third missionary journey.

He also performed incredible miracles there.  He healed the sick and cast out demons (Acts 19:11-12).  A church started there.  In Revelation 2-3, Jesus wrote a letter to seven churches.  The first church that got a letter from Jesus was the church at Ephesus.  It was the church that lost its first love but there are problems with this view.

Problems with the Traditional Interpretation

We don’t know for sure if this letter was written to the church at Ephesus.  There are several reasons why this letter may NOT have been written to the church at Ephesus.

1) The oldest Greek manuscripts do not have those words “in Ephesus”

The majority of texts say that this, but majorities are not always right.  A majority of the country may believe in gay marriage or abortion.  That does not make it right.  The oldest Greek manuscripts do not have those word.  The three oldest Greek manuscripts on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians do not have the words “in Ephesus” (Vaticanus, Sinaiticus & the Chester Beatty Papyri [P46]).

The last one is the oldest manuscript of the Pauline epistles (200 AD).  Some of the church fathers said that they did not have those words in their Bibles (Tertullian, Jerome, Origen).

2) Paul did not know these people.

We see that in Ephesians 1:15. For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints (ESV).  If Paul spent three years in Ephesus, as Acts says, he would have known these people personally.  He would not just say that he heard about their faith from someone else.  He would know people in the church and he would have greeted them but this letter has no personal greeting.  It is rather impersonal, which seems strange, if this letter went to that church.

3) This was a letter to a Gentile church

We know from Acts that the church at Ephesus had both Jews and Gentiles in it. This letter was written to a Gentile church. There is a possible clue found in Colossians 4:16.

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

What is the letter to the church at Laodicea? Some believe it was a lost letter of Paul. Others believe that it is not lost. It is what we call the Book of Ephesians, which was the view of my mentor at Western Kentucky University, which would mean that the Book of the Ephesians is really the Epistle to the Laodiceans.

We know that Ephesians and Colossians were written at the same time from prison.  Both epistles sound very similar.  They were delivered by the same person – Tychicus probably at the same time (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7) and the two cities of Colosse and Laodicea were close.  They were neighboring villages.

[1] This outline comes from NT scholar Chris Vlachos, who uses this outline of Ephesians in his NT Literature and Interpretation class at Wheaton College.

[2]This is an adaptation from Stephen Mattson.  While I do not endorse all of his comments, he has an excellent quote found at https://sojo.net/articles/when-christians-love-theology-more-people which is adapted here.

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